It’s time to Break It Down!
There is a rumor among us that the GOP is actively attempting to forge a makeover; a fundamental alteration of strategies and tactics that inured the Party’s losses in a number of key demographic strata back on November 6, 2012. On that fateful day, AKA (also known as) Election Day, 2012, President Obama amassed an edge in numerous statistical categories, which ultimately propelled him to a win in the General Election.
It sounds good, in principle. However, as with most high-minded ideals, finding and maintaining higher ground, moral or otherwise, is “easier said than done!” Back to the real world; last week, Alaska Republican Representative Don Young took what may best be described as one humongous step “Back to the GOP Future!” During a discussion about ongoing challenges to the economy last Thursday, Republican Young referred to Hispanic workers as “wetbacks,” an ethnic slur used to describe migrant workers.
In providing depth and context to his unwitting and off-putting phraseology, the Congressman told Alaska public radio station KRBD “My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.” Perhaps, this variety of wrong-headed Palinesque jocularity is a fundamental flaw of Alaska Republicans. But I digress. The term “wetback” is a pejorative assignation historically used to describe workers from Latin American countries who swim across the Rio Grande to reach the United States.
Last fall, during the height of the Presidential Campaign, a number of gaffes, if you will, impaired Governor Romney’s ability to engineer a successful effort to wrest the Presidency from “44.” In fact, these untimely and unforced errors were a huge part of what Team GOP aimed to fix, after what by most accounts, they considered a stunning defeat in the 2012 Presidential Election.
In direct response, it has been reported that the Republican Party has executed extensive post-election polling and focus groups designed to obtain a serious and objective reading on where they stand within the framework of a changing electorate. Obviously, this is not so subtle reinforcement of that ever compelling nugget of conventional wisdom: “Hindsight is 20/20.” If only…this brainstorm had touched down before the election.
Mark McKinnon, a former strategist for George W. Bush opined, “The Republican Party needs messages and policies that appeal to a broader audience. This election proved that trying to expand a shrinking base ain’t going to cut it. It’s time to put some compassion back in conservatism. The party needs more tolerance, more diversity and a deeper appreciation for the concerns of the middle class.”
To highlight his point, even though only 39% of whites, 44% of voters older than 65, and 25% of white males voted for President Obama, he still prevailed. He did so in large measure because he won 9 of the 10 States identified as Swing States, losing only here in North Carolina. These states were home to the 10 closest election margins in 2012, and are listed below:
1. Florida: 0.6 percent (Obama 49.9, Romney 49.3.)
2. Ohio: 1.9 percent (Obama 50.1, Romney 48.2)
3. North Carolina: 2.2 percent (Romney 50.6, Obama 48.4)
4. Virginia (99% reporting): 3.0 percent (Obama 50.8, Romney 47.8)
5. Colorado: 4.7 percent (Obama 51.2, Romney 46.5)
6. Pennsylvania (99% reporting): 5.2 percent (Obama 52, Romney 46.8)
7. Iowa: 5.6 percent (Obama 52.1, Romney 46.5)
8. New Hampshire (99% reporting): 5.8 percent (Obama 52.2, Romney 46.4)
9. Nevada (99% reporting): 6.6 percent (Obama 52.3, Romney 45.7)
10. Wisconsin: 6.7 percent (Obama 52.8, Romney 46.1)
So despite President Obama and Democrats in general finding challenging sledding in the demographic segments for which the GOP fought most enthusiastically (and effectively, I might add), there was a proverbial desert of GOP political failure within in other demographic groups in 2012. On the way to victory, the President won an array of demographic segments, including the dozen below:
Women – 55%
Black – 93%
Hispanic – 67%
Asian – 73%
Jewish – 69%
Other – 57%
Age 18-29 – 60%
Age 30-44 – 52%
Unmarried – 67%
Self Identified Gay – 76%
Income Under $30,000 – 63%
Income $30,000 – $49,000 – 57%
Obviously, the Republican Party has devoted a significant amount of mental capital to contemplating the return on investment (or lack thereof) in the politics of hate, derision, and various and sundry slurs. Now all they need to do is get their full complement of players on board.
Congressman Young’s immediate response to the dust-up created by his comments was not exactly rueful, or contrition-filled. In a sit down interview with Ketchikan Radio, Representative Young said, “I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California. I know this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.” And yet, he used to the term anyway. Mental note to the Congressman; that you “knew the word is not used in the same way nowadays”, and yet you used it anyway…that is what most thinking people would call, “the problem.”
In retrospect, Representative Young’s slur is a classic example the type of devaluing of an entire ethnic group that will make the GOP’s efforts to recalibrate its vision and messaging a continuing minefield, littered with their own crass commentary and willful disregard of calls for change, even from within their own diminishing circle. So, from my admittedly limited vantage point, this was just another case of SOSDD; “Back to the GOP Future!”
I’m done; holla back!
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